Earlier this month, a federal judge in Seattle temporarily blocked the country’s first attempt at trying to unionize the independent contractors of Uber and Lyft. Seattle had a law that passed in 2015, saying that independent contractors like Uber of Lyft drivers had the right to collectively bargain their rights, hours, benefits, and the like.
Before we discuss the potential pro’s and con’s of the decision, let’s look at the decision itself to begin. The judge who rendered the decision, Robert Lansik, didn’t say that this injunctions like these were how he believed most would end up.
He actually sounded quite sympathetic to the drivers and instead said that it’s a complicated issue and he’d like to pause before going forward. So while this appears to be a victory for Uber and Lyft, the judge hardly sounded enthusiastic to their position. He was quoted as saying, “The public will be well-served by maintaining the status quo while the issues are given careful judicial consideration.”
Maintaining the status quo while the issues are given consideration? Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
The plan for the drivers was to take a vote in the near future and decide if they would want to unionize in the first place. While most people would assume the drivers would vote yes, that was hardly considered a foregone conclusion. Uber and Lyft have been spending millions of dollars trying to get drivers to vote against unionizing.
The benefits would obviously be nice, but a lot of people who drive for these companies prefer being an independent contractor where they can come and go as they please. If the drivers become unionized, the independence they now have might slowly become a thing of the past, and that’s why a great many people joined these companies.
Some drivers in Seattle interviewed also spoke to the fact that they didn’t start driving for Uber so they could join a union. In fact, it was more likely the opposite. They liked doing their own thing, and were against the idea of unionizing.
There is also the issue to consider of whether it’s even a good thing. I work as an independent contractor (writing) and I tend to think it would do more harm than good. If Uber and Lyft were forced to deal with a unionizing group, there fees would go through the roof. Legal fees, medical fees, overtime pay, etc, etc.
This could cause Uber and Lyft to shut down in cities or states where their independent contractors were allowed to unionize. In attempts to make things better, the people attempting to unionize may actually be driving themselves out of the chance to work in the industry at all.
One thing we can’t argue is that it is undoubtedly bad for the consumer. If Seattle is allowed to unionize there’s only two possibilities for the citizens of that great city. First, Uber and Lyft decides it’s not feasible to continue working there with their overhead suddenly becoming too much. Second, they raise fees to counter all their rising fees to be in an unionized city.
Either Uber is not in the city at all, or the price of taking an Uber is hiked. No matter what, the consumer loses. Sure, I’d hypothetically love to have Uber drivers have a lot more benefits, but I don’t think it’s for the overall good of both them or the consumer. I mean, do we really want to return to these???
For that reason, I think the injunction is a good thing.
Although we certainly have not heard the end of this.
To be continued, most assuredly….